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Published: Friday, 10/16/2009

Founder of import firm was art lover

Willis Boice, 86, founder of a machine tool-importing firm who turned a corner of his warehouse into an art gallery, died Tuesday in Parkcliffe Community.

The cause was not known. He had Alzheimer's disease about eight years, his wife, Annette, said.

Mr. Boice of Ottawa Hills began Willis Machinery & Tools in 1963. He went to Europe on business regularly.

"He remained good friends with his Italian suppliers. His Swedish suppliers were over to visit him personally, besides business," his wife said. "He was just really a likeable guy."

He retired about 10 years ago. His son Peter is president; son Stephen is vice president, and stepson John Minns is treasurer.

He collected art and became a champion of Italian painter Lucio Sollazzi and, later, of Olaf Wieghorst and Michael Coleman, who portrayed the American West.

In 1971, he opened the Warehouse Gallery at his South Avenue facility. Some paintings were hung from shipping crates.

"He loved art, and he had a special opinion about his art," his wife said. "He didn't buy what he didn't like."

He was born March 12, 1923, in Hibbing, Minn., to Juanita and Lynn Smith. They divorced, and he and his mother came to Toledo after she married John Boice.

He was a graduate of DeVilbiss High School and the University of Michigan. During World War II, he was an Army lieutenant and platoon leader and received a Bronze Star.

He was a salesman for his stepfather's company, Boice-Crane Co.

He was a former Toledo pro-am golf champion and had been club golf champion at Toledo Country Club.

He was formerly married to the late Mary Anne Boice.

Surviving are his wife, Annette, whom he married July 7, 1961; sons, Stephen, Lawrence, and Peter Boice; daughters, Charlotte Perry and Tricia Dooley; stepson, John Minns; stepdaughters, Marcia Drumheller and Sharon Newman, and 17 grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in St. Michael's in the Hills Episcopal Church, Ottawa Hills, where he'd taught Sunday school. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the church; the Evans Scholars Foundation, Golf, Ill.; the Alzheimer's Association in Toledo, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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